Me surveying the courtyard of The Gardens in Miami Gardens, FL.
Earlier in the previous week, I made the mistake of wearing a Star Trek T-shirt when we came across The Gardens Apartment complex in Miami Gardens. Didn’t go over well. I was ready when we returned on Sunday to shoot scenes for Sharia/David/ Roman. We had shot Howard picking up David from school without a hitch earlier that day. It gave me the momentum to put stories of people’s information being obtained by hackers via credit card purchases at Target out of my mind (I bought the air mattress for the fight scene the night before). It helped me get geared up for whatever awaited me at The Garden. It’s one thing to go into a situation on your own; whatever happens to you is whatever. It’s different when you have actors, actors’ parents and crew to think about. We got there and ingratiated ourselves with folks hanging out along the balconies and in the courtyard. The cameras and lights drew crowds here and there. One of the students at Florida Memorial University (where I teach), let us use her apartment and was quick to go and let neighbors know that they need to mind their damn business. Things got really interesting when Richard Mercado and Andrew did their fight scene. Ol’ Andrew was chewing his gum like he was a hard-nosed cop from up North. When bodies went to thumping against the walls and sounds of struggle carried down the corridors, folk opened doors and craned their necks toward the action. The questions seemed good-natured enough. So far.
The infamous air mat for the fight scene heard ’round the complex.
There was this more than tipsy older dude at the end of the hall. He kept his radio going, playing Rick James and all the oldies. I’d say he was fifty but looked sixty. He held court with several other folks that looked like an ad hoc neighborhood committee. Dude sent kids to come and tell me that I was sent for. Ain’t that some shit? Dude was as sloppy looking as the Ozzie Davis character on Do The Right Thing, the one stumbling around bitching to corner store cashiers about them not having no Miller Hi-Life. Anyway, I go into Obama mode, y’know, explaining and shaking hands. Dude says that he’s the mayor of The Gardens. I ask the mayor could he chill with the music for a second so we could shoot this scene. This goofy ass goofball says if I give him ten dollars to replace the beer he just drank, he’ll turn it down. Not knowing the landscape, I replayed this half-jokingly to the student living in the apartment to get a feel of the situation. She told me don’t pay him any mind. That’s all I needed to hear. Andrew and Richard yelled and cursed a lil louder for the next takes to drown out distant sounds of Betty Wright. To hell with you, and your ‘hood tax, mayor.
Things went smoothly when we shot inside the apartment. Denim got a little light-headed and chatty from hunger but he got his lines. Hunger had the rest of us getting ‘hood/undergrad creative. I had fed everyone hoagie sandwiches and Doritos for lunch. Now, coming into six o’clock, we had only fruit, bottled water and the fish Chante cooked for a scene. My wife let us borrow a fish fryer, which had grease so old and used in it, folks joked that it should be poured out and be put somewhere as a black history artifact. We became so hungry, we ate the fish she cooked in it anyway. That’s right, bottled water, Dorito dust from the bags from lunch and fish fried by a questionable cook (the male conjecture was any woman that fine sure as hell can’t cook) in grease that could have sent lesser souls on to glory.
As our stomachs adjusted, Richard and Chante had an interesting argument/fight scene. For several takes, after Richard would grab, shove and send an open hand flying a tenth of an inch by her face. She’d ball up on the couch giggling every time. Giggling! This chick is twisted! She eventually put some headphones on for a few minutes to get her mind in the zone. When she took off the headphones and went into the next take, she melted into a red faced, contorted fit of tears at the end. Since she came with it, I showed mercy by withholding my surgical, peerless cracks on her. She realized this and said she would be forever in my debt. I said that I knew this already. If she says otherwise, I already told you she’s twisted, you feel me?
Even Erica the producer was getting froggy. It’s like she was cracking on me to make up for Chante’s peacefulness. We all discovered Erica becomes evil when she is hungry and has not gone to church (and yes. we prayed at the beginning of every day of shooting). Everybody gushed over how well the takes looked on camera. Andrew really looks like he slapped the hell out of Chante. Ah, quality violence. As we wrapped up, everyone kept saying how they enjoyed each other, how surprising professional the footage looked and how lucky I am to have had this kind of an atmosphere for my first project. I needed to hear that. Needless to say, I have a gang of pressures to deal with because of taking this on. It helps to hear from others that they see the value in what you’ve created.
The trailer should be ready in two weeks. Then, it’s all out grinding for funding the full short.